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Performers Of The Month - Staff Choice Most Outstanding Performer of September - Carrie Coon



Article was written by Luana Arturi, Sam D, Mads, Sandi, and Darthlocke. Article edited by Donna Cromeans (@DJRIter). Article prepared for publication by Aimee Hicks.

Carrie Coon is a criminally underrated performer. She has stolen the show every time she's been on screen, whether it's her Emmy nominated performance in Fargo, or any of the characters she so perfectly embodied in movies like Gone Girl and The Post, or her role as Nora Durst on The Leftovers. It's not an easy feat to play subtly different characters and yet become a completely different person, easily distinguishable from the rest. She is the type of performer who elevates the level of every production she is in. Her stellar performance in the season finale of The Sinner's second season where, even though she wasn't the lead, she was a dominating force and had us biding our time for her next scene. Her performance as Vera Walker was mysterious, compassionate, manipulative, assertive and yet never contradictory. Even when we got to see flashbacks of her character she was different, more open, less hardened. It is this performance that is being recognized in this article as the reasons she was chosen SpoilerTV Performer of the Month for September-Staff Choice are more closely examined.

Coon's ferocity is evident from the beginning of the episode particularly in the scene where she forcibly drags Julian (Elisha Henig) with her, keeping a tight grip on him while making sure they're not being watched. She is not about to let anyone take him. Then faced with an unexpected change in travel plans, Coon keeps Vera completely on solid ground with a calm but decisive approach towards what she needs to do. She doesn't let Vera get thrown by the changes in the plan, she takes it in stride and just moves on to an alternate plan. As she talks to her accomplice, the way Coon speaks with this strong, low, hushed voice and keeps this standoffish stance towards her speaks volumes as to how serious Vera is about protecting Julian.

"Are you ok?” Vera asks Julian later on. The two proceed to have a dialogue where Vera attempts to take some responsibility by apologizing to Julian for lying about Marin, but Julian clearly sick of Vera's lies, deflects by changing the subject. Vera continues to try and appease Julian's senses but ultimately fails when he coolly turns away and she hesitates to touch the back of his upper arm. What makes Coon's performance so good here, and in general, is that she can easily play characters that are hard to read; characters like Vera who are rather psychologically calculating, who know how to say all the right things, but whose steady vocal tone and reserved body language seem somewhat disingenuous. Despite that, Vera, with all of her problems, does care for at least Julian. It's the confliction of those things that make Coon such a great actress to watch.

After Vera has picked up some fake ID for them both, she leads Julian back to their hideout only to find the police searching the apartment. They’d been tipped off by Julian’s secret phone call to Ambrose (Bill Pullman). As ever, Coon remains protective of her younger charge during these shorter, almost dialogue-free scenes with a protective arm around him and her body language alert at all times. Once safely out of sight in the café, what follows is an exceptional scene that makes liberal use of Pinteresque pauses which in turn allows the camera to pick up the micro expressions and other reactions vital to make this emotion-filled scene work.

Coon is known for her commanding presence and doesn't disappoint here as she lays out the change of plans to Julian. We have seen her character forcefully change the previous toxic, cult-like Mosswood into one that follows her own set of morals, and that is mirrored in what she is endeavoring to do with Julian – the unwanted child of a young, single mother who was raped – too. But what she hasn't yet fully understood is that this young man she'd raised is wise beyond his years and has decided to fully shoulder those morals whilst wanting to break free of the bubble of the commune. Coonportrays all these complex and conflicted reactions very clearly with her body language and vocal tempo retreating as the scene progresses. It is evident, through her facial reactions that her character is attempting to work through the consequences of the dialogue between the two of them.

Watching her struggle to keep her composure once Vera realizes that Julian is serious about going back to take whatever punishment he deserves is heartbreakingly realistic. This is one of Coon's specialities as an actor, her sense of control and depth of range that makes her fascinating to watch as an actor, none more so when in a scene such as this. Once she fully breaks down, there is almost a parentification feel to the moment when it is Julian who holds out his hand for Vera to clasp for comfort. It's a highly emotive scene, with Coon showing one of the rawest and most vulnerable sides of her character. As it draws to a close there are visible signs of the emotionally cut off side of Vera that will be required in a later scene where she starts to smooth over the fear her character is feeling.

She continues to shine during the depiction of a memory of Vera and Julian in the woods. A clearly happier time, Coon allows Vera to relax and be comfortable spending time with Julian. As she teaches him about the plants they run across, watching Julian's excitement and happiness at his extensive knowledge of all that she has shown him. She takes Vera to this level of genuine pride and joy at seeing him, letting other troubles slip away for a bit. But, as they run across the one plant Julian doesn't know, she drops that relaxed face for just a moment as she tells Julian about this deadly plant and warns him to stay away from it. As he moves on from it, Vera tells him how much she loves him and from the look in Coon's eyes, it’s clear just how strongly you can see how true that is.

Vera deciding to burn down Mosswood is truly a moment of catharsis for the character and Coon is a marvel to watch as she hits all the right beats within Vera's journey. Since the beginning of the season, Vera was loyal to Mosswood's code and beliefs. Julian changed that for her. Once she began to realize the real insidious nature of the group's culture, she began understanding the way she had been molded by the mandates. Her body was used as a tool for men to channel their anger into in twisted therapy sessions. She was constantly forced to fight for Julian. Burning the remnants of Mosswood to the ground was her reclaiming both her agency and her life from the grips of the place she once worshipped. The skeletal remains are symbolic of shedding away from that part of her life and being able to start anew.

The actress embodies Vera with a stoic, silent strength when she takes the torch to Mosswoodand conveys so much with just a glance. Vera is not a soft woman, she is not easy to like, and yet Coon was able to display her genuine moments of vulnerability while still maintaining a cold and distant demeanor. She crafted Vera with such grace and care it was difficult to not find her a sympathetic character even at her worst moments. A lesser actor could have made Vera a one-dimensional, cardboard character but under Coon's mastery, she is far from it. Burning Mosswood could have seemed an immature act of defiance but instead, it became an emblematic moment of rebirth.

Another powerful scene where Coon demonstrates her skill at straddling the line between ferocity and softness comes when she has the upper-hand over Ambrose, at first it seems but then he is able to poke at her weakness - Julian. He points out that Julian is not really hers and that strong, controlling, veneer Vera has worked so hard to construct begin to crack. Yet, she still has her fingers in Ambrose's hair, she is unwilling to surrender her control over him, or anyone else who stumbles into her path. Somehow Coon can balance a barrage of differing emotions all at once. Each one clearly evident, while she still maintains an almost creepy sexual tension with Ambrose. It’s the epitome of watching a master at the top of her craft.

When Vera feels a moment of weakness, she pivots quickly, turning the tables back on Ambrose by getting under his skin and weaponizing his own weaknesses surrounding his mother against him. Vera is not unlike a serpent in the grass, waiting for the opportune moment to strike. Not unlike the scene where she burns down Mosswood, she sought a different kind of catharsis here - in violence. She chokes Ambrose and the release on her face is there. She is emptying a part of herself into him and he into her. As toxic as these two are together they help the pain ebb away, in dark and twisted ways.

Coon is scary. as she should be, at that moment, the intent to kill Ambrose is very much present in Vera's eyes. And while the audienceknows he doesn't die, it's easy to forget that when her performance is so riveting. She's surrendered herself completely to Vera and her frightening psyche. Vera is such a complicated character and Coon’s layered performance continued to evolve throughout the season, up until the final seconds of the finale. It’s feat to accomplish something as masterful as an ever growing character with a performer who can enhance even the most intricate person into something greater than what is written on paper.

After court, Vera says she'll see Julian tomorrow but then proceeds to thank and say goodbye to Detective Ambrose. Coon's demeanor towards Pullman's Ambrose remains calm and at a distance, yet the power she has over him is palpable, but there is also a mysterious pull between them, despite the cordialness of their exchange. There is ambiguity here with how this awakening will affect Ambrose. Should there be another season, an ambiguity that is really coming from Coon herself, as viewers are left to wonder if their connection and session are a blessing or a curse for him. It's once again a testament to Coon's acting strengths as she pulls off a cool exterior, distance, manipulation, control, but yet be so verbally full of conviction and is able to hover between some uncertain ethical line. One can't help to be captivated by the contradictions Coon conveys while wondering what truly lies underneath a character who exists in veils like a muse.

If played by a different actress, Vera Walker could have easily become a forgettable character. Thanks to Carrie Coon she does not and this performance in The Sinnerwill join the list of her critically acclaimed performances. There are truly not enough words to do Carrie Coon's acting skills justice but hopefully, this article has explained why she won SpoilerTV Staff Choice Performer of the Month for September. We couldn't have possibly covered all the reasons she deserves this honor, let us know what your favorite moments from this episode were in the comments below.

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